Block

Issue 6 | Summer 2021 |

 

He sat alone at his laptop, watching the moon blanch his keys. It was seven-thirty, late-April. His wife was upstairs in their room, sulking, though with a bit more gravity to her step. She was only thirty-six, and they had time for this, he knew. She knew it, too. She’d reminded him that morning, while he stirred her scallions and eggs, that the likelihood goes up exponentially, starting at thirty-five . . .

They didn’t know the cause. It wasn’t age-related. Over forty percent of pregnancies . . . , she told him by the stove. There wasn’t any note of pleading in her voice, no hint of desperation or remorse. Nor had she insinuated that he was to blame, despite his advancing age—he was all of thirty-eight. He wondered if he had sipped too many diet sodas, or nuked things without standing back. It might have been the tofu—he’d been a vegan for six years, and he’d read what that did to your count. He continued to cook her eggs in silence, watching her morosely, not knowing what to say then, or think . . .

Tonight, as he slumped along his keys, trying to find a reason to write, he studied the books at his side: Chaucer, James Dickey, a couple journals he had meant to discard, one of which contained his latest writing—he realized, after sending it, that it was shit—and his favorite work of all of them, McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, in which puppies are thrown from a bridge. He’d always found that scene humorous. Tonight, he scanned it briefly—but the Judge had set forth—and found the writing difficult to parse.

He’d never really meant to have a child. Had never really given it thought. But then it sprang on him one day, as it does every writer, that words have no actual use; that they’re only as old as their medium, and only as long-lasting, whereas the soul transpires for all time. He had never been religious, never really believed in God (nor would he, in later years), though hearing the word then—this conception of a soul, the utter miracle birthed in a womb—he began to conceive that there was something magical in being, something beyond wisdom, or words. How else could one explain it? It wasn’t like a book that he wrote—or was trying to write, anyways.

Dabbing his cheeks, he realized, however abstractly, that his place within the world was not set. He was never destined to write things, never destined to reproduce. Any soul or re-creation was a lark.

“Are you coming to bed, dear?” his wife asked. For a moment he thought he heard himself speak.